The fertile plains

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My latest column over at Grist is about bicycling in Las Vegas.

The literal translation of Las Vegas is “fertile plains.” Looking back in light of the city’s current landscape of asphalt and gravel, the name seems tragically optimistic. But this city, like any other, has been incredibly fertile for those who were lucky, savvy, or brutal enough to take advantage of it.

The bike industry has certainly found fertile ground in Vegas. Interbike, the annual bicycle trade show — largest in North America — is there this week. As bike companies slowly shift their focus from sports to daily transportation, the staggering dissonance in thousands of industry reps (including dozens of advocates) descend upon what might be the least bike-friendly city in the nation.

I hear a lot of grumbling that Interbike should be anywhere but Vegas. But why not try the unthinkable and instead work to make Vegas a better place for bicycling? The industry reaps huge benefits and profits in that convention hall. Maybe it’s time to give something back.